CGHE Annual Conference

POSTPONED: CGHE 2020 annual conference – Higher Education as Transformation

Date: Wednesday, 1 April 2020 8:30 am - 5:40 pm
Location: Senate House, University of London

IMPORTANT UPDATE: In the light of the spread of the Coronavirus worldwide, we will postpone the 2020 CGHE Conference to a date to be fixed, probably in Autumn 2020. We apologise for any inconvenience this will cause.

The CGHE annual conference returns for its fifth edition in 2020, taking place this year at the University of London’s Senate House.


2020 Burton R Clark lecture on higher education – Tertiary Education Systems and International Development: Adapting the Wisdom of Burton Clark to the World Bank’s strategy for effective reforms

Roberta Bassett, Global Lead for Tertiary Education and Senior Education Specialist, World Bank

In homage to this being the fifth and final keynote address sponsored by Adele Clark, this keynote will directly utilise key concepts imagined and explored by Burton Clark throughout his illustrious career in higher education research to explore opportunities in higher education for international development. As the World Bank’s portfolio in higher education expands, it is interested in the opportunities afforded by utilising diversified and well-articulated tertiary education systems to support its clients’ specific and contextually relevant needs. This address will present the challenges of tertiary education and development—historically and currently—and examine how these challenges might be met through adoption of reformed and agile tertiary education systems.

Regulating for Fair Access to Higher Education in England: lessons from the first decade and prospects for the next

Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation, Office for Students

Higher education as individual and social transformation

Professor Simon Marginson, CGHE Director

Higher education participation now takes in 50-95 per cent of the age cohort in 63 systems around the world. This has fundamentally opened up the ‘T’ potential of higher education (broad and deep) in the transformation of individuals and society. It is curious that at the same time there has been a sharp narrowing of the policy agenda, to the extent of dumbing down the potential of the sector. In some nations the outcomes of higher education seem to be largely confined to graduate salaries and rates of employment. In the UK we now have the fashionable fallacy that the value of learning is sufficiently measured by early graduate earnings. It is even implied that if a much larger proportion of students moved to ostensibly high-income earning degrees in STEM and finance, the whole cohort would be enriched and so would the nation. Human capital economics is not immune from hubris. Jobs and earnings are certainly motivating, but they are not the only reason that students enrol or that societies need higher education (which is fortunate, because the number of genuinely high-income earning jobs is intrinsically limited, while larger graduate premiums occur in more unequal societies). The larger point is that the development of students as productive economic actors is only one part of their formation as human agents, immersed in complex bodies of shared knowledge and diverse cultural experiences, with lifelong transformative effects in their personal capabilities and social relations. Drawing on the Kantian and Confucian traditions of self-cultivation for the common good, the paper will argue for a much larger understanding and more determined measurement of the many contributions of higher education and university-based research in the formation of persons, economy, state, civil society and the global future.

Panel on Higher Education and Sustainability

  • Tristan McCowan (Chair), UCL
  • Hilligie van’t Land, International Association of Universities (IAU)
  • Jackline Nyerere, Kenyatta University
  • Robin Shields, Bristol University

Universities are heavily implicated in the current global crisis of climate and environment. They are the locus of most environmental science, and are spearheading the development of innovative technologies that may enable more sustainable futures. With increasing proportions of the population progressing to higher education, they also have a fundamental role in educating young people about sustainable development. At the same time, they are also contributors to climate change and environmental destruction, through their own emissions, their international students and academic travel, their investments, and their complicity with an economic and cultural model of wasteful consumption that has created the problems in the first place. This panel debates the current and potential roles of higher education in relation to sustainability. It assesses the impact that higher education systems have on graduate perceptions, attitudes and actions relating to the environment, the impact of their research and community engagement, their own campus operations, and the ways in which these might be transformed. It also engages with the complex ideological and epistemic questions surrounding sustainable development, distrust of experts and climate denial, and the role of student and staff activism and mobilisation.

Parallel sessions

The consequences of student debt on family formation and well-being in England and the U.S.

Ariane de Gayardon, Rooney Columbus, Claire Callender and Steve Desjardins

Rising student loan debt in many countries across the globe creates an important financial burden for individuals as they leave higher education and enter young adulthood. Two main modalities of student-loan repayment exist. If repayment is ‘mortgage-style’, as is common in the U.S., then the amount repaid depends on the total balance, interest rate, and the repayment schedule. If repayment is income-contingent, as in England, then the amount repaid is a percentage of the borrower’s income. An income-contingent repayment scheme theoretically mitigates the financial burden of student-loan repayment and, by extension, may limit other potentially negative consequences of student loans on young adults’ lives.

This research provides a quantitative and comparative account of the relationship between student loans and young adults’ family formation and well-being outcomes in two countries: England (using the Next Steps survey) and the U.S. (using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics). More specifically, we use several empirical methods to analyse the link between whether and how much students borrowed and the timing of first partnership and first childbirth, as well as financial well-being, life satisfaction, physical health, and mental health. Our presentation will provide an overview of these relationships in both England and the U.S. and discuss policy implications both for student loans in general and for different student loan repayments.

Learning from the South: Insights for the UK from the transformation of higher education in South Africa

Rajani Naidoo

We are trapped in the hegemonic belief that ideas that generate innovation in higher education travel in a one-way direction from rich western countries to the global South, a belief that has been entrenched by funding arrangements, material and discursive power relations and global policy regimes. Drawing from CGHE project 1.6 on South African undergraduate education and the public good, this presentation aims to balance this one-way flow of ideas. This is a timely and necessary shift for a number of reasons. First, China and other non-western countries’ growing global influence, together with the extended reach of global corporations, have created a critical disruption in the hierarchical order of nations traditionally dominated by western powers (Marginson, 2018).1 Second, complex patterns of societal inequality which are being reproduced across the north-south divide and multiplying in the richest countries in the world (Pikkety, 2014),2 are being replicated in Anglo-Saxon higher education systems through escalating stratification and inequality. While the extent of disadvantage and its challenges in South African higher education remain proportionately different to the UK, the presentation will argue that it is precisely the sheer scale of inequality in South Africa and the high visibility of the challenges unleashed, that creates fertile ground for innovative policy interventions to emerge. The presentation will outline innovations identified in the research project which aim to combat existing inequalities of access and success such as contextualised admissions, a flexible and extended undergraduate curriculum, the linking of quality with equity, and the ways in which universities have engaged with students in their demand for the decolonization of higher education (Ashwin and Case, 2018).3 The presentation will also discuss the extent to which the idea of the university as an agent of social transformation continues to be kept alive by key actors in South Africa and how this influences policy renewal. Insights from Latin American will be compared with South Africa to develop conceptual and empirical insights for the contribution of higher education to inclusive development in the North and the South. While policy learning across countries must always take full cognizance of political, economic and cultural differences, and while the challenges faced in South Africa and Latin America have yet to be overcome, the policy interventions presented nevertheless highlight the shortcomings of neoliberal reforms, and serve to open up space to imagine alternative policy responses to some of the challenges faced in UK higher education. At the same time, the presentation will also highlight how the UK project researchers drew on UK and international research to illuminate policy ‘blind spots’ for South Africa.

The structure of the private higher education sector in the UK

Stephen Hunt and Vikki Boliver

There are over 800 private higher education providers throughout the UK, yet they are subject to few restrictions, and little official regulation, and there is a concomitant lack of information concerning the sector as a whole. The present research presents data from a comprehensive survey of private providers in the UK conducted in 2016/1. Previously it has only been possible to take a piecemeal view of the sector by examining differing characteristics in isolation. The present research statistically integrates these data to identify any underlying structure in the sector.

Analysis indicates there are four groups or types of provider. Accounting for fifty per cent of the sector are a group of recently founded for-profit institutions concentrating on Business or IT courses at sub-degree level. This group tends to be accredited providers of other organisations’ course and qualifications. The second group accounts for over a quarter of providers: these, in contrast, are charitable or not for-profit institutions: longer established, these tend to be specialist providers concentrating on provision at degree level or above, often validated by a university or professional body.

A tenth of providers are for-profit institutions concentrating on Business or IT courses at post-graduate level. The remainder belong to a group characterised as the longest standing institutions and of charitable or not for profit status. These are either specialist providers excluding Business/ IT or non-specialist providers. This group includes all providers with the legally protected title of University or University College. The latter two groups have a far higher proportion of providers that are entitled to recruit international students and students with publically backed tuition fee loans than the former, and are far more likely to have had their provision subject to a quality review.

In policy terms the analysis indicates that rather than representative of the sector as a whole providers subject to any oversight or quality review are concentrated in one of two small groups accounting for less than a quarter of all providers: the remainder go almost entirely unaccounted. This situation is unlikely to change under the Office for Student’s new system of higher education oversight.

The cautionary tale of the United States’ complex student loan repayment system

Presenter: KC Deane

Co-Authors: Fernando Furquim (University of Michigan), Stephen DesJardins (University of Michigan), and Brian McCall (University of Michigan)

Income-based loan repayment schemes are compellingly simple: students’ monthly payments are capped at a set percentage of income. The straightforward design theoretically increases repayment rates and prevents students from experiencing negative consequences such as default. However, as countries with predominantly income-contingent loan programs experience lower-than-expected repayment rates and higher-than-expected costs, policymakers may question the benefits of these loans. The repayment system in the United States—which is predominantly not income-based—serves as a cautionary tale: borrowers bounce between servicers and repayment statuses as they choose (or don’t) between nearly two dozen repayment plans. The result is a highly complex system that asymmetrically favors well-informed borrowers and serves up steep financial consequences to delinquent borrowers (Barr, Chapman, Dearden, & Dynarski, 2019).

Motivated by an interest to better understand the consequences of a complex repayment system, we construct detailed monthly student loan repayment histories spanning 12 years for a nationally representative sample of United States borrowers. Using social sequence analysis, we identify common patterns of repayment and assess whether these patterns differ based on student and institutional characteristics. Preliminary results reveal that nearly a third of borrowers default once and, of those, 18% default again. Strikingly, the average default spell is about three years. Some borrowers appear savvier than others, never fully repaying their loans but avoiding default by seeking out deferment or forbearance. Observing how repayment unfolds in the US context reinforces the many ways in which income-based loan repayment schemes are better able to support borrowers as they enter adulthood.

Contributions of Japan’s Higher Education as Public and Common Goods

Futao Huang, Tsukasa Daizen, Lilan Chen

Different from the presentation made in the CGHE 2019 annual conference which focused on reviewing prior studies in public good of Japanese higher education and the analysis of how the phrase is viewed by several government officials, institutional leaders, deans and professors in Japan, this study mainly inquiries into the activity of Japan’s higher education as public and common goods based on main findings from semi-structured interviews with 16 policy makers, presidents of national professional associations, institutional leaders, deans and professors from contrasting disciplines, and other administrators from two different national universities in Japan. It also discusses roles of government and relations between government and higher education institutions. The study concludes by identifying main challenges Japan faces in relation to the contributions of its higher education as the public and common goods, and arguing the possible ways to optimise the contribution of Japan’s higher education institutions to the public good and common goods at various levels.

Through the gates: national and regional actors’ influence on university governance in Norway, Germany and the UK

Jurgen Enders and Aniko Horvath

Forms of governance at national, regional and institutional levels and the ways in which they interface with academic life critically shape the culture, creativity and educational outcomes of higher education. Using three national case studies – Norway, Germany, and the UK – the presentation will explore the implications for questions of governance of the interactions between universities, their national governments and their regions/localities. It will address issues such as: the mechanisms and actors – including national governments – that (de)link universities and regions; the ways local/regional factors effect differentiation between HEIs; and the ways university-region(s) relationships have been produced and/or disrupted by institutionally embedded power relationships. It will specifically focus on two facets of the ‘regional’: a) Regulatory forms and interferences and b) Regional interaction, sense-making and practices. To conceptually and empirically examine the processes that create and maintain ideas of regions, and to identify the mechanisms that disrupt and/or reconfigure symbolic/historical regions, we would use as theoretical frames Paasi’s definitions of regions (Paasi 1986), the work of Jayasuriya on ‘regulatory regionalism’ (2003, 2008), Robertson on ‘regulatory state regionalism’, and Marginson and Rhodes (2002) on ‘glonacal agency heuristic’. The study rests on more than 180 hour-long semi-structured interviews collected over a four-year period for the project entitled The Governance of Higher Education in Europe and the UK, based at the Centre for Global Higher Education, University College London.

Rethinking Graduateness? How students’ relations to knowledge change over the course of their Chemistry and Chemical Engineering degrees

Paul Ashwin, Margaret Blackie, Nicole Pitterson

In contemporary times characterised by economic difficulties, dynamic social relationships and future uncertainty, there is a fresh interrogation of the purposes of an undergraduate education. Another contemporary focus in higher education is on the economic rationale of universities and on the special role of STEM disciplines, which are seen as lucrative for graduates’ career success as well as for the development of national economies. What is less emphasised and less understood is the transformational impact of these disciplines in terms of the ways in which they transform students’ sense of identity as they engage with disciplinary knowledge. This is a key element of ‘graduateness’ that is characteristic of higher education. In this paper, we will examine how students studying Chemistry and Chemical Engineering in South Africa, the UK, and USA are changed by their engagement with knowledge over the course of their undergraduate degrees. This will provide new understandings of graduateness in these areas and the paper will explore the implications for policy and practice of these new understandings.

A life-course account of post-study trajectories in diverging contexts: Foregrounding the agency of student-migrants in the UK and Japan

Thomas Brotherhood

While universities and students overwhelmingly support mobility rights for international students and the economic, educational and social cases for post-study work rights are strong, international student-migrants exist in a turbulent policy-space. In these uncertain times, how international students understand and interpret policy frameworks and subsequently negotiate their post-study trajectories is a topic of keen interest.

I will present the results of an 18-month longitudinal study of student-migrant transitions, drawing on the results of a policy trajectory analysis and biographical-narrative interviews with student-migrants in the UK and Japan. I identify the critical importance of policy frameworks’ receptivity, stability and transparency in defining individuals’ perceptions of opportunity in the post-study environment, revealing how such factors define the regulatory relationship between student-migrants and their host countries. Furthermore, I illustrate how individuals navigate their post-study transitions. In ongoing negotiation with their context, participants variably draw on existing models of success, creatively reconfigure new pathways, and seek to subvert and resist barriers they encounter in their post-study transition. I conclude with recommendations for policy and practice, arguing that universities’ structural reliance on international student fees should be matched with institutional support for their mobile students throughout their post-study transitions, as well as continued advocacy for receptivity, stability and transparency at the level of policy.

Approaches to Academic Roles across a Diversifying Workforce

Dr Celia Whitchurch, Dr Giulio Marini, Professor William Locke

The session will provide an update on CGHE Research Project 3.2 on The future higher education workforce in locally and globally engaged HEIs. It will report on a) a survey sent to all academic staff in five case study institutions across the UK in spring/summer 2018/19, and b) follow up interviews that took place with up to 40 respondents in autumn/spring 2019/2020, who were originally interviewed in autumn/spring 2017/2018. The survey provides a context for analysing the more in-depth findings of both sets of interviews.

The survey component of the project investigates the structure of current academic staff in British non-Russell Group universities. In addition to publicly available information (e.g. contracted roles) released from HESA, this analysis also sheds light on the employment sector origin of staff and their potential destinations, both within and outside higher education institutions. In particular, the paper analyses whether and, if so, how previous experience may predict current career tracks. Moreover, the survey helps to explore which previous experiences and current conditions predict an intention to leave higher education employment for other sectors. The findings illustrate the extent to which other education employment is seen as less desirable than higher education, but also a preference for employment outside education in the private sector. Key driving forces that influence individuals to leave higher education (staff attrition) are excessive workloads and previous experience of having worked outside higher education.

Analysis of the interviews will focus on movements that have occurred in the two-year period between 2017 and 2019 and, in particular, individuals who have moved between the three types of approaches to roles established from the first set of interviews, ie Mainstream, Portfolio and Niche approaches. Attention will be drawn to conditions that facilitate or frustrate individual aspirations, and also the sense of dislocation that can occur in relation to timelines, for instance between real-time working and assumptions in workload models; and in relation to space, for instance between an individual’s disciplinary affiliation and the locale(s) in which they carry out their teaching, research and related academic activity. From this, some indicators will be drawn of strategies that individuals are likely to adopt in developing careers in higher education.

Pure Prestige or Academic Productivity? International Learning and Academic Career Development of Chinese PhD Returnees

Prof Ka Ho Mok and Dr Jin Jiang

In recently years, the UK and other western countries witnessed a dramatic growth of international students from East Asian countries, particularly China. Less known is whether and how their international learning experience affects their career development. In a recent study of Chinese returnees with their bachelor or master degrees in the UK, Mok and his colleagues (2018, forthcoming) found that Chinese returnees generally enjoyed good employment and high salaries, and a large proportion of them suggested a positive impact of their international learning experience on their job search and career development.

Building on the studies on the international learning experience and career development of Chinese bachelor and master degree holders, the research team extends their research to Chinese PhD returnees’ learning experience and their professional development. More specifically, this study critically examines how the overseas doctoral study contributes the employment of PhD returnees in the academic job market. Drawing on a national survey on government-funded Chinese PhD returnees, this article finds no significant “pure prestige” effect of returnees’ doctoral university independent of individual merits. Instead, pre-employment academic productivity plays an important role in determining PhD returnees’ job placement in a top university in China. The research findings will not only fill the research gap in the international student mobility of PhD level, but also provide insights for promoting talent mobility and internationalization of higher education in the era of globalisation.

Similarities and differences between notions of ‘public’ in the Sinic and liberal Anglo-American traditions, and the implications for higher education

Lili Yang

A common trope, particularly in the liberal Anglo-American tradition, is the notion that higher education plays a public role and produces public goods. However, there is a lack of clarity about what this means. The Anglo-American economic or political explanations of higher education’s role in public goods do not necessarily apply outside Anglo-American societies, including China with its comprehensive state. The comparison between the two cases may bring us closer to what might be common (and diverse) in higher education’s role across the world. The study conceptually explores meanings of ‘public’ and related key terms in each of the Sinic and liberal Anglo-American traditions, through a critical literature review of existing scholarship.

In this process, five pairs of key themes (comprising both Chinese and English/ Western terms) have been identified that open up aspects of the ‘public’ in higher education: (1) xiushen, self-cultivation, and Bildung, (2) gong/public and si/private, (3) gongping/equity, (4) zhi, the free will, and liberty, and (5) tianxia weigong, all under heaven belongs to all, and the global public good. The comparison focuses on hybridisations, synergies, and complementarities between the two traditions.

The findings demonstrate both similarities and differences between the two traditions, manifested in their distinct worldviews, political and social imaginaries, understandings of the ‘public’ and ‘public good,’ and so forth. The research not only sheds new light on how higher education contribute to the public or collective good of societies (including the global public good or common good), but also help to enhance potential collaboration among higher education systems worldwide.

“Like having a little conference every day”: participants’ experiences of social learning and digital engagement on a MOOC

Eileen Kennedy and Diana Laurillard

The term “MOOC” has different meanings for different people, ranging from static, online resources available on-demand for self-study, video-led courses where interactivity is limited to multiple choice quizzes, to vibrant communities of practice where participants exchange knowledge and experience with their professional peers. Technology is central to the experience, with digital platforms built to accommodate tens of thousands of simultaneous learners. Beyond that, however, there is great variety in how technology is used to support learning experiences. Similarly, the incorporation of discussion and social learning varies substantially between platforms and courses.

This paper presents findings from in-depth interviews with MOOC participants using an adapted repertory grid technique. In online, participant-led interactive sessions, interviewees were asked about their experience of social learning and interactivity on a MOOC. Participants were asked to compare a range of MOOCs and other online learning experiences, as a means to articulate how they made sense of their varied experiences.

This has resulted in a rich set of insights into learning online at scale, and has highlighted the importance of six factors in participants’ learning experiences: Deep Learning; Applied Learning; Inclusive Learning; Social Learning; Digital Engagement and an awareness of Learning Design. The paper reports on the ways – positive and negative – that participants experienced social learning and digital engagement in MOOCs. We consider the role played by educators, the importance of discussion prompts and participants’ experience of learning from peers. In terms of digital engagement, we point to the varied degrees of interactivity within MOOCs and the ways these were experienced. For many (often professional) participants, active participation in a vibrant discussion with peers was a vital part of learning, where they felt they learnt from others who helped clarify and apply the ideas in practical ways. However, many participants also pointed to experiences where the discussion was lacking, not structured or meaningful and where educators were absent. Interactive, digital engagement was something many participants valued, but online experiences often failed to live up to expectations.

Our findings show that more effective design of MOOCs, foregrounding meaningful discussion and digitally engagement, would better support the learning of participants, particularly professional learners. In conclusion, we argue that a shift towards MOOCs for interactive, social learning could change popular understanding what MOOCs are capable of achieving, with the potential to transform universities’ approach to knowledge exchange with professionals.

Other upcoming events

CGHE webinar series on HE and geopolitics
Tuesday, 9 July 2024 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
All times BST. Zoom, registration required
Dr Amine Moussa
Dr. Clemens Wollny
Carol Switzer
CGHE webinar series on HE and geopolitics
Tuesday, 30 July 2024 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
All times BST. Zoom, registration required
Emily Dobrich
CGHE Webinar
Tuesday, 2 July 2024 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
All times BST. Zoom webinar, registration required
Sarah Hayes
Michael Jopling
CGHE webinar series on HE and geopolitics
Tuesday, 25 June 2024 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
All times BST. Zoom webinar, registration required
Nex Bengson
CGHE webinar series on HE and geopolitics
Tuesday, 23 July 2024 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
All times BST. Zoom webinar, registration required
Cristina Mazzero